Probe into deadly Honduras prison fire

2012-02-16 08:05

Tegucigalpa - A prison fire in northern Honduras has left at least 377 inmates dead, authorities said late on Wednesday, as inmates accused the guards of leaving them locked in their cells.

Most of the victims suffocated to death in the fire, which broke out late on Tuesday at the prison in Comayagua, a town of 60 000 people located 100km north of the capital Tegucigalpa.

Police were investigating the possibility of arson by an inmate who escaped, police spokesperson Hector Ivan Mejia said. Earlier reports blamed the fire on a prison mutiny.

'Burning to death'

The medium-security prison, built for 450 prisoners, had around 820 occupants, he said. Scores were being treated for burns and other injuries.

A total of 475 prisoners have been transferred to other secure locations, Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla said.

Identifying the dead would take around three days, Lucy Marrder, chief of forensic medicine at the ministry of justice, was quoted as saying by local media.

The inmates accused prison officials of not opening cell doors after the blaze broke out.

"We were burning to death, we were panicking, particularly since they would not open the cells," an inmate who identified himself as Tiberio told media from a Tegucigalpa hospital.

In 2004, 107 inmates in a prison in the north-western city of San Pedro Sula died in a fire that was caused by a short circuit.